writing and inspiration

The Appian Way: I did it my way!

 By K D Grace

I’m just back from four glorious days in Rome, and I’m reminded once again why I love the place so much. Poor Raymond

was stuck in a conference the whole time, but I tagged along to play, to explore Rome MY WAY! The introvert’s way, and that meant a very long walk on the Queen of Highways, the Ghost Road, better known as the Appian Way. Living in Britain we know a thing or two about Roman roads, with more than a few of our byways and motorways having been built on top of Roman roads. The Romans did roads real good! Built in 312 BC, the Apian Way connected Rome to Brindisi, in Italy’s boot heel, some 350 miles away. It was originally built for military purposes. Wasn’t everything?

I once spent a fabulous afternoon in High Gate Cemetery in London. The Appian Way reminded me of that outing, only with more warmth and more sunshine. Places of burial and the way a culture deals with its dead are reflections of the culture itself. When High Gate was built churchyards were so overly full that the stench and the spread of disease were serious problems. What to do with the dead is a major issue in urban areas, so cemeteries were built outside the cities to ease overcrowding in churchyards, but the cities grew up around them. Cemeteries are a relative modern solution.

Now, imagine if the burial solution had, instead, been to allow people to bury their dead along the main motorways and freeways. That was the Roman solution in the time of the Caesars, when burial was not allowed inside the city. The Appian Way is a living monument to the dead. The road begins at the gate of San Sebastiano in the old Aurelian walls with a series of catacombs just beyond. They were all closed the day I went, which was fine. I was there for the walk. The first ten miles of the Appian Way have been made into a national park, and those ten miles are chockablock with ancient monuments, mausoleums and ruins of villas. Not only was the Appian Way the place for burying the dead, but it was prime real estate for building your villa. Beyond the first few kilometers there’s no traffic other than the rich and entitled, who now have their own villas along the Appian Way. Those you can’t see because they’re all set well back from the cobbled road out of sight of the hoi poloi. 

I stopped at the Villa and Circus of Maxentius to picnic on the sandwich I’d bought at a cafe near the Appian Way Visitor Center. After spending way too much time exploring the mausoleum and the circus, I realized there was no way I could manage any real walking if I stopped for a detailed look-see at every monument and ruin along the way, and it was the feel of the road I wanted. In a way, it was a road trip ancient Roman style. I’m a huge fan of aqueducts and after studying the map I’d picked up at the visitors center, I made an executive decision to walk all the way to the aqueduct at the seven-mile mark. Of course seven miles out meant a seven miles return to where I could catch a bus back into the city. Never mind that! I’m a pit bull when I decide to do something, and I had my mind set on aqueducts.

My choice was a good one. Both sides of the road are literally lined with monuments, broken statuary, and even the odd remains of stone coffins. Some of the more important monuments were on the map, but most were not. The Appian Way is like the Forum and the Paletine in a straight line, but without the heaving crowds and the city noise. Since most people were more interested in the catacombs and the monuments just beyond, I shared the whole Appian way with only a few other intrepid walkers and runners and the occasional cyclist — oh, and a goat herder with a large flock of goats, bells tinkling, kids bleating as they crossed the cobbled road in front of me. 

An erotica writer alone with her thoughts on a long walk in the beautiful Italian sunshine would have been enough to

inspire without the bloke who had, perhaps found riding his bike along the rough vibration of the cobbles a bit too stimulating. (I kid you not! What are the chances?) I figured he either thought he was alone or his situation was too urgent for him to notice that he had an audience. I suppose it was possible he was just an exhibitionist. That was all right, since I’m a bit of a voyeur, albeit a shy one. I smiled to myself and pretended not to see. Really, rough cobbled or not, who could blame the man for taking matters into his own hands on such a beautiful day. There’s something very stimulating about a nice long walk in the sunshine. I tucked that little scene away in the back of my mind for future use, and you’re welcome to borrow it if it inspires.

I made it to the aqueduct, and not a step further. Oh I was tempted to see what was along miles eight, nine, and ten. I was tempted to go all the way, but seven miles out meant seven miles back to the

bus, and I was in serious need of espresso. Besides the walk was a stretch for me. It was the longest I’d done since my knee surgery in February. I made it back no worse for the wear, giving myself a mental high-five as I arrived just in time to catch the bus back to Rome with a Danish couple who had been leap-frogging me for the last five miles. Immediately upon my arrival at Piazza della Repubblica where our hotel was, I found a café and had a celebratory espresso. In fact, I made it a double — being too embarrassed to ask for a triple.

Later, after I had re-caffeinated, drank a gallon of water and lingered beneath the shower massage, I enjoyed wine and spaghetti carbonara in an open air café, while I watched the lights of the Eternal City blink on around the Piazza della Repubblica, with its fountain and it’s spotlights on the ruins of Diocletian’s Bath. It was one of those days that felt, larger than life, as I often find days do when my only job is simply to pick up my feet and put them down one step at a time while I watch and observe and let myself be acted upon by what I see. Those days stand out. Those days are precious because they make me feel up to the task, they make me feel like I can do anything. They open me to possibilities, and there’s nothing more precious to a writer.

On Second Thought

By K D Grace

When I lived in Croatia a hundred years ago, I spent three weeks every summer camping on the Adriatic near Pula. At the campsite where I stayed, there was a small store and a restaurant that had live music every night. There were several buildings with showers and toilets. That was the extent of the place.

One of the shower blocks not far from where I set up my tent was a narrow concrete pre-fab with a row of cubicles, each containing a shower, each with a door leading right out onto the main path through the camp. One year one of the six cubicles was missing a door. That meant more congestion for the remaining shower units, which were in high demand in August. There was almost always a queue.

Early one evening on my way back from the grocery store, I noticed two very fit German blokes I’d seen wind surfing earlier in the day queuing for the shower, but they got tired of waiting, so they stripped off their Speedos and waltzed right on in to the cubicle without the door.

I happened to be with a friend who was a bit more prudish than I, and she averted her eyes and dragged me away in a huff, me nearly breaking my neck for one last glance over my shoulder at naked, wet maleness. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. What I saw was fleeting. But what I imagined – over and over and over again – was most definitely not!

So why do I bring this up? Last month, just back from Scotland, I wrote about the inspiration a writer gets from images and shared a few examples. This month, I’d like to explore the inspiration we get from that glorious, super-high-tech instant replay in our brain.

My voyeuristic encounter at the showers stands out to me as outrageously erotic, and yet nothing happened. Two blokes got tired of waiting in queue for the shower, probably anxious to get to dinner and a cold beer, so they chose to shower in full view of hundreds of people they didn’t know, hundreds of people who would never see them again. BUT, they were wrong, I’ve seen them countless times in my imagination – sometimes sun bleached and golden in the late afternoon light, sometimes dark, tattooed and dangerous just before dusk, beckoning me to come join them, speaking softly to me in German — words I don’t understand, though I completely get their meaning. I know exactly what those boys want, as they leer at me and I leer back.

In some of those instant replays, I meet them on the beach at midnight to share a bottle of wine and a naked swim in the warm moonlit waters. In some of those instant replays, I shoo my prudish friend back to her tent, then strip off shamelessly and join them, letting them soap me and rinse me and protect me with their naked, glistening bodies from the gaping onlookers. In other versions, they come to the shower late at night when everyone else is asleep, and only I’m there to watch them lather and bathe each other, thorough in their efforts to get clean, more thorough in their efforts to relieve the tensions of the day.

Everyone has an instant replay in their brain that allows them to rewind, slo-mo, enhance, zoom in on any part of any experience or image that catches their fancy, and then enjoy it a second or even a 50th time around. We can take that experience and totally change it if we choose. We do it all the time; in our heads, we rewrite the ending of an interview that didn’t go so well or an argument with a lover so that we can take back what we wish we hadn’t said. Sometimes we imagine what would have happened next if things had been allowed to unfold to the end, if I had been allowed to linger a little longer in front of the showers. In fact, we can be really neurotic about it, playing the same scenes over and over and obsessing on them, for good or for ill.

Writers are especially adept at using this instant replay to inspire, to arouse, to tease out and focus on details we might otherwise have missed, details that might have totally intrigued us the first time around, even details that weren’t really there. Then we write those details into whole new sexy scenarios, sometimes even whole novels.

I know, I know! It’s all a part of memory. Anyone can hit the ole instant replay button at any time and

experience the past all over again. We all do that. But there’s nothing ordinary about the ability to relive our experiences and imagine ourselves in a different life – perhaps even as different people who make a different decision; perhaps the decision to strip off and shower with the German wind-surfers. The creative process of a writer depends on the exploitation of that instant replay button. I can’t think of anything I’ve written that isn’t grounded in some way, no matter how miniscule, in my recalling of an experience, my reimagining of a moment, or my reworking of an image that intrigues me. In a very real sense, we are what we write as we wind back the video in the editing room of our brain and hit replay, then hit slo-mo, then zoom in real nice and tight-like so that we can enhance and recreate every detail to tell a brand new story.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica

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